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Jesse Lynch Williams
THE WINNING OF THE CANE
THE MADNESS OF POLER STACY
THE HAZING OF VALLIANT
THE RESPONSIBILITY OF LAWRENCE
FIXING THAT FRESHMAN
THE SCRUB QUARTER-BACK
WHEN GIRLS COME TO PRINCETON
THE LITTLE TUTOR
THE MAN THAT LED THE CLASS
The modern Cane Spree is held in broad daylight on University Field. It is a vastly different affair from the Spree we used to watch with chattering teeth at midnight, kneeling on the wet grass in front of Witherspoon, with a full moon watching over West College and Mat. Goldie and two assistants waiting by the lamp-post to join in the fierce rush which followed each bout.
Nowadays it is one of the regular events of the Annual Fall Handicap Games, and is advertised in large special feature letters on the posters hanging in the shop windows and on the bulletin elm. It is a perfectly proper and legitimate proceeding, and is watched like any other field event from the bleachers and Grand Stand, with girls there to catch their breath and say "Oh!" The class that wins is glad. They cheer awhile and then watch the final heat of the 2.20.
In our day you could seldom see much of anything, and there was nothing proper about it. But it was one of the things a fellow lived for, like Thanksgiving games and Spring Term. To win a cane for one's class was an honor of a lifetime, like playing on the 'Varsity, or winning the Lynde debate. Men are still pointed out when back at Commencement as the light or middle weight spreers of their class, and a member of the faculty is famous for having "described a parabola with his opponent." This trick and a book called "Basal Concepts in Philosophy" bear his name, though it is maintained by some that he is more proud of the book.
This is to be a story of "How we used to do when we were in college." It would not do to revive the ancient cane spree. Things have changed since then. We are a university now. We mustn't behave like a college any longer. Besides, it was bad for the football men and training hours. But all the same, those old times were fun while they lasted. Weren't they?
High up over Clio Hall hung a moon, which a night or two before had been full. Over there, on the balconies of Witherspoon, blue and red and green lights were flaring. On the grass-plot in front was a huge black circle. This was made up of the College of New Jersey.
Their hats were off, and the red and the green and the blue mingled with the moonlight and glared upon the bare heads and the white of the faces with an effect as ghastly as it sounds.
The elms over toward Reunion and West cast long ugly-looking shadows. Beyond these everything seemed far away and dark and silent. Yet only a few hours before this same spot had served the innocent purpose of batting up flies and kicking footballs for points, with fellows shouting in loud, careless voices, "Aw! Come off! That was over the line!"
The circle was not yet perfectly formed. The crowd shivered and fidgeted, and borrowed lights of one another. Those behind called "Down in front!" And everyone wished it would begin. Some fellows kept edging in and were shoved back again by those appointed for that purpose. A few were moving about inside the circle displaying rolls of bills with which they made bets, and a great impression on under-classmen of a certain sort. The night was to be clear and frosty, and the strain on the nerves tremendous. So all those who believed in artificial warmth had it in their pockets, and some who did not.
For a month it had been, next to football, the most discussed topic at dinner-tables. Almost as soon as the rush was over—the annual cannon rush of the second night of the term without which the freshmen would not have considered themselves a class, while the underclassmen were still occupied in hazing and being hazed, and putting up and pulling down each other's proclamations throughout the state, and painting and repainting water-towers, and losing sleep in other good causes; in short, early in the term the candidates for the spreeing positions went into training, and they had been spreeing vigorously every night since—the freshmen back of the chapel and the sophs on the South Campus, about where Brown Hall now stands.
All sorts of rumors and counter-rumors had floated about the campus. The sophomores were frightened about a hinted-at dark horse of the freshmen, only they did not show it; and the freshmen were scared to death at the confident air of the well-known champion of the sophomores, and tried not to show it. And each was awed at the mysterious air of the other, and both had betted more than they had any business to on the result, and were now lined up in front of Witherspoon. All were as excited as they cared to be, and they had been cheering for themselves since nine o'clock. The cheers echoed in the frosty air from dark West and bright Witherspoon, and from far away first Church.
The sophomores were closely massed in the segment of the circle on the higher ground toward Reunion. Their cheering sounded blatant, and to the freshmen sickeningly confident. And the freshmen—they were opposite, with their sweet scared faces still more closely huddled together. Each freshman had his little cap safely tucked away in his innermost pocket, and none of them was saying a word, except when he opened his mouth to cheer with all his heart for his dear class. It was all new to them. They only waited and waited with the same aching suspense that you had on Thanksgiving-day, when you saw the referee toss the coin and one team take the ball while the other crouched, and then waited and waited, and you felt certain that something awful was the matter, but you did not know what.
Presently, though no official sign was given, every one felt that the important moment was at hand. The cheering sounded as if reinforcements had arrived. A compact circle was now formed by composite consent. Those in the front row sat down on the grass and caught cold. The next row kneeled. Those behind leaned on them, and so on back to those who stood on tip-toe and craned their necks for an occasional glimpse. Outside the circle, over by the Witherspoon lamp-post, leaned Proctor Matthew Goldie, Esquire, in a careless attitude.
Everyone's heart jumped up a little when a voice cried, "Here they come!" as though it were he who had to spree.
Led by their coachers, the two light weights scudded out mysteriously from different wings of Witherspoon with overcoats wrapped about them. As they crossed the light, the crowd, which had hushed for a moment, broke out in wild prolonged cheering; the two upper classes, who were not immediately interested, joined in. So did the sporting gentlemen of the town, and even the little muckers cheered shrilly for their favorite class.
A path was forced through the crowd, and the two nimble light weights began peeling their sweaters. The sophomore was dressed in black, the freshman in pure white. They resined their hands. Everyone felt things.
The referee held out the stout piece of hickory called cane by courtesy. He put the freshman's hands outside. The cheering ceased. Mat. Goldie stretched and changed his position.
There was a hurting stillness as they stood there with their feet braced, frozen in the ghastly glare, the one in white and the one in black, while the referee said, in earnest tones, "Are you ready, freshman?"
You could see his chest filling up from the bottom as he answered, "Um."
"Are you ready, sophomore?"
One of them dropped as if shot, the other followed him down, both turned over, each began struggling and straining; the coachers began coaching, the referee dropped down on his knees to see fair play, and then someone in the rear said, "Down in front!" in healthy, human tones, and you came to yourself and remembered that this was only a struggle for class honor, after all, and that whichever way it came out it was not going to kill you. Then you breathed.
Meanwhile, locked up in a room in East Middle Witherspoon, wrapped in sweaters and blankets, were five other freshmen, and to them the strain was worst of all. These were the other freshmen spreers, the light weight, the middle weight, and the three substitutes. They could only wait and listen and try to guess from the sound of the cheers which side had the advantage. It was too far off to distinguish anything but a ring with something undefined inside. The juniors said they must not go out on the balcony or get excited. This was easy to say.
While the crowd was in the room and fellows were clattering up and down the stairs and everyone was talking and the crowd outside was making a noise, it was not so bad. But now it was so silent they could almost hear the two contestants straining and wrenching below. Now and then the shrill, earnest voice of a coacher would cut through the silence. "Now! Now!" with an echo from the Presbyterian Church. "Right over with him. Remember what I told you." Once the middle weight arose from the divan; then he sat down again. A little later one of the subs whistled two bars of a tune and stopped as if he had forgotten something. Once in a while someone glanced at one of the others and then looked away again. They did not say much.
The only one who did not seem to mind it was Hill, the substitute heavy weight, and that was only because he had not sense enough. He was a big, thick-headed, sleepy-looking farmer, and the only reason he was up here with these nimble athletes was that he was such a tremendous buck and so stupid that when once he put his big hands on the stick he would not let go. But he would be used only in case the regular heavy weight died or had a fit or something before time was called, and that was improbable.
But Hill was enjoying everything. He thought the colored lights were "pretty," and he considered it good fun, loafing in this large, luxurious room. He glanced approvingly at the water-colors and examined the photographs and knocked down a few of them, and looked over the mugs and the foils and the antlers and the usual dust collectors of a well-furnished room. Then, because he approved of what he saw, he grinned.
He had grinned at the staring crowd when, half an hour before, it had stood to one side for him and the other spreers to pass by on the way back from weighing at the gymnasium. He thought lots of things were funny. He grinned broadly when, before the spree began, an excitable junior approached him in the corner where he was sitting alone and said, in jerky, tremulous tones, "Say, which do you think will win?" This was before the crowd was put out. That was the funniest thing of all—the way Cunningham put the crowd out. "Dash it! I wish to dash you fellows would dash quickly get to dash out of here. This is my room and, dash it all, I loaned it to the dash freshmen spreers and not to the whole dash college, dash it!" That was so funny that Hill let loose his huge laugh and filled up the room with it. This caused the other freshmen to look at one another and smile pityingly. But Hill did not notice it.
The other freshmen had little in common with Hill. It was not so much because he was uncouth as that he had no class spirit. He had entered college two days late, and those two days are like two years in some respects. He had missed the class meeting, where freshmen get a first sight of one another which lasts always, and he had missed the class rush about the cannon, where freshmen are so closely pressed together that they never after get quite apart. But the farmer should have wakened up by this time. Lack of class spirit is never pardonable. This is the way Hill happened to be here this evening.
One day early in the term, as he was pushing his big chest across the campus to recitation, he heard someone call: "Hold up, there, you big freshman!" So he smiled and took off his ugly derby hat.
"No, I'm not a sophomore; I'm a junior," said the stranger, who then explained that he wanted to talk to him. "You come to my room at one o'clock, and don't forget about it," said the junior. "Run along, now; the bell is stopping."
Hill came, and found several other freshmen there. "Take hold of this stick," said the junior.
He put his big fists about it and found himself flying across the room. He landed against the door and beside him lay a table, which never arose.
"Now, that is cane-spreeing," said the junior casually, as one would say, "Down there is the new Art building," "and I want all you fellows to meet me at eight o'clock back of chapel."
That night they gave Hill a cane and said, "Take hold of this and don't let go." He held it for an hour against every one except the junior that was sophomore heavy weight the previous year. But he had never yet been quick enough to take it away from anyone, even the light weights. And that was the reason he was a substitute waiting in Montie Cunningham's room wrapped in two sweaters and a blanket. His eyes were closed and he was thinking about what a bully time his younger brother Ike must be having among the chestnuts this month.
The big leather chair was soft and he might have fallen asleep had not at that moment a tremendous yell burst into existence down below—a loud, shrill, fiendish yell which lasted nearly a minute before it was shaken down to an organized cheer. Hill stretched.
The others were out on the balcony. "Tell us which has it! For heaven's sake, tell us!" they cried to every one below; and no one below answered. So all they could do was to bite their lips and wait until the yelling became cheering, and then they knew from the exultant tones of the sophomores what they did not want to know.
Just then they caught a glimpse of the victor waving the cane in his hand as he was borne high on the shoulders of his class-mates to West Witherspoon.
Then they had a confused view of the rush. The upper classes fell to one side and the other two fell upon one another. This was the fiercest sort of rushing known to the proctors. The two sides were not, as in the cannon rush, evenly lined up four abreast. Not a bit of it. There were two thickly massed bodies of men, one running up a grade, the other charging down, and the roll of their footsteps was as the sound of much cattle, running. For a moment each tried to keep in solid form. But only long enough for some one to be knocked down and run over by the rest. After the first crash it was mixed fighting. In the moonlight one could not invariably distinguish friend from foe. So each man doubled up both fists and let drive at everyone he saw. It was glorious.
As soon as they became hopelessly mixed and each class had cheered itself hoarse and the proctors had carried off an armful of sophomores to appear before the Discipline Committee the next day, and to be cheered off at the depot by lamenting classmates later on, everyone turned up his coat-collar and helped form the ring again.
Those on the balcony, who had been panting and chafing like tied deer-hounds, now heard the feet of them bearing bad tidings and the defeated freshman up the entry stairs. The door was kicked open and three winded juniors laid their burden gently on the bed, which had been dragged in from the other room for this purpose. With them many others pushed in who did not belong there, and the room was full of people once more. Many voices were explaining how it all happened.
Ramsay, the little freshman, was completely done. He had fainted as they brought him upstairs. His face was set and white, and he lay there with his tough little resiny hands hanging limp at his side while his classmates poured brandy down his throat and told each other what to do. Through the window came a sharp freshman cheer with "Runt Ramsay" on the end.
Meanwhile the middle weight had stripped to the waist. He was bending forward with his forearms upon the mantel-piece and his forehead resting on them, as one bows during prayers in chapel. Two men were vigorously rubbing his long strong back with whiskey. The coach was standing beside him, giving final admonitions in a quick, tense manner. "Now, if he does this, you do this. See? He can't get you on that shoulder-throw of his. And if he tries this trick you know how to meet it. Why, you can do him dead easy. I won from him last year, and you can take it away from me," and so on. As they started from the room, he added, "Now remember your whole class is watching you and——" But the door closed and they hurried down the stairs, and in a moment the wild cheering announced their entrance in the ring. Hill was sorry, because he thought it right funny.
He went out on the balcony and looked down on the crowd. The noise and the moonlight and the specks of cigarlight had a grotesque effect. He had never seen anything like it before.
"Oh, cork up that laugh, Farmer Hill," said Bushforth, the heavy weight, who was also centre of the freshman team and had a right to patronize. "It's bad enough as it is, without that bark of yours."
Hill stopped laughing. He grinned instead. His feelings were not hurt. He had none.
Again the cheering was hushed. It was so still that those on the balcony might have heard the hard breathing or the whimpering of the freshman on the bed. The farmer heard it and went inside.
The liquor and exercise had made Ramsay warm. He had thrown off the blankets and lay half naked with his hands clasped across his eyes. Drops of sweat were running off his palpitating chest. Hill looked at his prettily developed arms and at the slender, well-turned wrist and at the tough little hands, which, Hill decided, had never done much farm work. Then because he liked what he saw, he laughed.
The light weight uncovered one eye and then covered it again.
"There, there," said the farmer, patting the black curly hair, which looked "pretty" against the white pillow. "I wouldn't take on so, little one, we'll get some of those canes yet."
Brandy and defeat had made Ramsay cross. He said: "Oh, go to the devil, won't you please?"
"All right," replied the big fellow. "Only you'll catch cold that way. Let me fix them." He carefully tucked the blankets around his classmate, who said, "That's so. Much obliged." Hill smiled at his uncomfortable tone.
When, after seven hard-fought rounds, Murray, the middle weight, was brought up breathless and caneless, there was great discouragement in the freshman camp. The middle weight was the one above all others upon whom they had relied to defend the honor of the class. Murray, the long-winded, himself had felt confident of winning; and probably he would have by sheer endurance had not the sophomore taken him unawares by a very easy finger trick as they lay together on the ground resting.
But it was all over now, and the middle weight was stretched out on the bed beside Ramsay. He had not, however, fainted, and he was sullenly chewing a piece of gum he had had in his mouth during the struggle. He looked unconcerned. He made no excuses to those who told what a nervy fight he had made.
All the week previous the betting on the heavy weight had been two to one on the sophomore. But now three seniors from the enemy's camp swaggered into the room shouting, "Here's four to one on Parker. Who wants it? Why don't you back your man?" They smiled at the junior coachers. "Drake don't want any of it," said another, in a dry tone; "he knows Parker too well."
Drake was the man who met Parker, unsuccessfully, the year before. "Wait a moment," he said. His sporting blood was stirred. "I'll take all you have, at four to one. Charlie, will you hold it, please?"
All of this must have been soothing to the nerves of the freshman heavy weight who was taking off his clothes for a final rub and trying not to hear the class cheers outside.
"Now then," said Montie Cunningham, slamming the door as the seniors hurried down the stairs, "this thing's got to stop right here." He brought a baseball bat down on the table so hard that every one stopped talking and looked up. "You've simply got to win that cane. If those dash sophomores win all three they'll crow over you for the rest of their course. They are arrogant enough already, dash them. And you fellows will be disgraced forever, and your class will be handed down in history as no good. People will refer to you as a class who lost all three canes. This is a crisis in your history. You made a good showing in the rush, but you were badly defeated in the baseball series. This is the third test. This decides it. Win this cane and you are all right. One out of three is a defeat, but not a disgrace, because you are only freshmen. But none out of three is. You've got to win this cane!"
No one uttered a sound for a moment. Farmer Hill did not laugh.
"Come here, Bushforth," said Drake, in a low, solemn voice; "I'll rub you myself."
The heavy weight was beautifully built and exceedingly quick for his size. He came to college with a good prep-school record of centre rush. But there was something disappointing about him, and you felt it every time you saw him move. You know the kind. One of those fellows who are splendid to look at in a football suit, and who will always put up a fair game on the scrub, but who are never going to make the 'Varsity.
Just now he was biting his lip and looking down at his own good legs. When he raised his glance he found Hill standing with arms akimbo, gazing at him with an earnest expression.
Bushforth smiled good-humoredly to show how cool he was.
"Think you can take that cane?" Hill asked with a grin.
"I really don't know, Hill," answered the beautifully built man.
"Do you think you can take it?" repeated the other.
"Well, Hill, Parker will have to work for it," said the heavy weight, indulgently. "Why? Would you like to take my place? I'd be glad to resign in your favor."
"All right," said Hill, simply. He began pulling up his sweater.
"Go on and sit down and stop your nonsense." It was hard to stand horse-play at such a moment, when your whole class was cheering for you outside.
"I ain't fooling," said the big farmer, with his arms still in the sweater, his head and body out.
"Hurry, Bush," said one of the juniors at the window. "The sophs have yelled across at me that they are ready."
"All right," said Bushforth, lacing his Jersey as he started for the door. He forgot to answer the other freshman.
"Wait a minute," said the big, cheerful voice of the farmer, "I think I'll go down this time."
"Oh, cork up, you big cow!" said Drake.
Hill corked up and then pushed Bushforth out of the way and started for the door.
"Will you please go back where you belong and sit down?" said Drake, impressively.
It failed to impress Hill. "Well, you see, it's this way," he began pleasantly, "he can't take that cane, I'm afraid. I can, though. I've got my blood up." He began contracting his biceps playfully. "Isn't it time to——"
"Freshman," interrupted Drake, with irony, "we have chosen the heavy weight representative of your class, and we are of the opinion that we know about as much of this business as you do. I never heard of such foolishness. Go sit down, and shut your big face. Your services will not be required unless Billy is laid off before he reaches the foot of the entry stairs. Come on, Billy."
"Then," Hill answered, smilingly, "I'll have to lay him off." He suddenly grabbed his big classmate by the shoulders, jerked him back into his arms, grasped him like a bag of flour, and hoisted him on his shoulders as if he had been one. "Now you lie down there, and be a good boy." He dropped Bushforth, but not roughly, in the corner behind the door, and then looked beamingly about at the others as though he had performed quite a feat. And so he had. Bushforth weighed one hundred and eighty-nine, stripped.
Outside the crowd was yelling concertedly in quick, jerky notes, "Shake it up! Shake it up! Shake it up!" and the sophomores were singing "Where, oh, where are the verdant freshmen?" etc., "Lost now in the green, green soup." But upstairs everyone was so tense and so excited that nothing was heard but the angry words of the coachers addressed to Hill, who was grinning.
Bushforth arose from the floor slowly.
"Shake it up, Billy," cried Drake, exasperated; "do you want to lose your cane by default?"
"Say," replied Bushforth, soberly, "do you suppose there's anything the matter with this hand?—Ugh! Great Scott! don't squeeze it."
Hill had not thrown him violently, but Bushforth, in throwing out his arms to stop himself, had struck his left hand against the wooden door-guard a few inches above the floor behind the door, and all his weight was upon it. The junior coach shut his eyes, dropped into Hill's big chair, and let his arms fall down to his sides. Everyone looked at him. "That settles it," he gasped. "Billy's hand is sprained. Let's give up the cane by default and——"
"Is it sprained?" interrupted Hill, removing his smile suddenly. "I'm sorry I hurt his hand. I did not intend that—Mr. Bushforth, I beg your pardon. I just wanted to show these fellows how strong I was. I didn't think I had a fair trial at spreeing. And now, Drake, don't you think we had better go down? They are clamoring down there. Are you coming?"
His tones were very deliberate and his manner so calm in contrast to the boiling condition of the others, that everyone seemed stunned for a moment. They only looked at one another.
"Shake it up! Shake it up! Shake it up!" came from the crowd below, and just then two representatives from the sophomores came running up the stairs, shouting, "Say, if you fellows don't wish to lose this by default come right now. Everyone's tired of waiting."
"Don't get excited," Drake shouted back. "Bushforth met with an accident and the sub is going to take his place. Come on, Hill." It was the only thing to do.
Hill saw the eyes of the two seniors brighten at the news, and heard his own classmates in the room cursing him. He said to himself, "Now then, I guess I've got to do something this evening," and followed Drake down the stairs.
"You're stronger than he is. He's all bluff. You'll do him dead easily," the two coachers were saying as heartily as they could. Hill did not reply. They crossed the light from the entry door. A strong cheer went up for Bushforth. Hill laughed. The coachers shivered.
Before they had pushed their way through the crowd to the ring, word went around that at the last moment Bushforth was laid off, and that a big sub named Hill had taken his place. Few had ever heard the name. The freshmen groaned; Hill heard it.
As they emerged into the ring, he heard a strange voice saying, "Why, he's that great big awkward chap the sophs guy so much, don't you remember?" Again Hill laughed.
"That's all right," whispered one of the juniors as he helped him off with his sweater. "You go in and win this cane, and your class will give you anything you want. Keep cool now, and remember what you have learned."
The farmer's big deformity-like shoulders looked more huge than ever in the thin, white jersey as he now straightened up in the moonlight.
"'Ray! 'Ray! 'Ray! Tiger, Siss, Boom, Ah! Hill." It rang out sharply on the frosty air. Then came a long cheer and then more short ones, with "Hill" on the end of them.
There is a peculiar thrill at the sound of one's own name shouted by a hundred voices on the end of a cheer. Hill felt it. He liked the feeling. "Now that means me," he said to himself, and he recalled what Drake had said to the middle weight: "Now remember, your whole class is watching you." It was in that moment that Hill caught class spirit.
The heavy weight spree was usually the shortest and most exciting contest of the evening. Everyone eagerly pressed forward on the wet grass.
The sophomores were barking and guying and quacking exultingly. The freshmen were cheering hard.
"Get ready, boys," said Jim, the athletic trainer, acting as referee. He held out the stick.
The sophomore ran out briskly. Hill spat on his hands and took his time about it. They grasped the cane. "Down in front, please!" a voice pleaded. The cheering had ceased as suddenly as you turn off the gas.
Hill was cool. He looked about at the theatre of faces on all sides. Just over the sophomore's shoulder, down on the ground with moonlight on his face, he spied an important-looking senior, with glasses, who on the campus had always seemed oblivious to the existence of freshmen. He was rocking back and forth and chewing a cold cigar to bits.
"Are you ready, Hill?"
The freshman spread his legs apart and said, "Yep."
A ghastly silent second. "Spree!"
As the referee spoke the word, Hill felt the sophomore drop. He knew what was coming. Over his opponent's head he went sprawling on the grass, as he expected. But just then, in some manner, quick as a flash, Parker doubled and threw both legs in between Hill's body and the cane, and began, with all his strength, to strain, and push, and wrench.
Hill had expected something, and thought he was guarding against it. But this was a new trick—a variation on the old one—which the sophomore had invented himself.
Now, if it had been an ordinary man, with ordinary Christian shoulders, the strain would have been too great, and the sophomore would have won the cane in ten seconds, as he counted on doing.
But you see Hill was somewhat deformed as to his shoulders. He grunted and clung on, and the sophomore's coachers were yelling fiendishly: "You've got him, Park! You've got him!"
The next instant, while the sophomore was trying to better his advantage, Hill quietly turned, slipped out of the perilous position, and drew himself up close to the sophomore's body. He lay there panting, while his coachers cried, joyfully: "Good one, Hill! good one!" and his classmates left off feeling sick at their stomachs, and began to cheer him by name. This he did not hear.
He had been taken by surprise at the fall, but now he was entirely alive to what he was about. Every nerve was at tension, each muscle set at hair-trigger. There was just one thing in all the world to him now, and that was the cane. And when, a moment later, Parker began a quick series of furious jerks, back and forth and sidewise, Hill said, half aloud: "No, you don't, old man," and smiled confidently to himself as he felt how firm the cane was in his hand.
The sophomore, on top, now tried working Hill's hands off with his fingers. But the freshman had lived on a farm all his life. Then he tried something with his legs. But Hill's big supports were as hard as the columns of Whig Hall, though not as symmetrical. Then, waiting awhile, he tried to surprise Hill with more quick, sharp wrenches. It was unsuccessful. He waited, and tried it again. Then time was called. The two class-cheers burst forth simultaneously.
The contestants were dragged to their respective corners, wrapped with blankets, and sponged with water.
During the interval, a buzz of voices began suddenly, as in a racing grand-stand after the winner has been announced. The college had expected an easy thing for Parker, the champion, and when they heard of Bushforth's absence, they were sure of it. Everyone was saying: "Who is this Hill? Hasn't he shoulders! Wasn't that a narrow hole he crawled out of?"
The coachers were whispering, "You're doing well, Hill. Stick to him, and you'll get him yet. You'll tire him out."
Two or three freshmen came into the ring and shook Hill's hand, saying, nervously, "Good boy, Hill, good one." He was already a distinguished man, having held the cane for a round against Parker. But Hill only grinned and had his own opinion. The honor of the class depended upon him. He thought he was going to win the cane.
When the referee called them up, one of the sophomore's coaches called out, in an easy tone, "Remember, now," and Parker replied, in a cool way, "Very well." The silence was worse than ever. People felt that this would be the last round.
The two spreers were the coolest on the campus. But they also felt that this would settle it, and as they grasped the cane each looked the other over and then gazed straight into his enemy's eye. Very much, no doubt, as knights of old used to size each other up before they fell to cutting each other to bits, of a quiet afternoon by the sea-side.
Hill did not like Parker, nor would he have fancied him even if the sophomore had not been a brutal and unreasonable hazer. However, he appreciated his athletic abilities, and even in the tense moment of waiting for the referee's word, he could not help admiring the way his opponent's neck fitted his body, and the clean cut of his limbs, which Hill himself so lacked.
The sophomore looked him back in the eyes, and said, sneeringly, "You damned freshman!" which was entirely uncalled for.
When the word was given both kept their feet for a few minutes. They held their arms down stiff, keeping the cane close to their bodies in order to prevent the other from jumping in between. Neither seemed inclined to begin the attack, and they danced cautiously about the circle with their faces close together. There was something impressive in the sight of these two, pounding about in the moonlight. They were so ponderous, and it all seemed to mean so much. Parker tried the right hip throw.
He was partially successful. They were both on the ground now, and the timer snapped his stop watch. Time is not counted when the men are erect.
The sophomore was on top again. Again he tried his jerking manœuvres, and again Hill smiled to himself and thought, "I guess not."
He lay perfectly still on the wet grass, as if comfortable and quite content to remain there. He heard a voice from the crowd say, "Spread out, you coachers. Give us a show." He could feel the sophomore's breath on his neck and the beating of the heart against his back. He felt the cool wet grass on his cheek flattened against it, and he became aware that his nose was bleeding, and then said to himself, "Oh, yes; I must have bumped that on Parker's elbow when we came down."
Now, up to this point, the freshman had been on the defensive entirely, and he had been so successful that one of the coachers began giving the signals to begin a little offensive work. "No, no, Hammie," cried Drake. "Let good enough alone."
Hill had regained his wind by this time. "Please don't bother me," he said, in a muffled tone. "I'm doing this thing. I'll get this cane in a minute." This was loud enough for some of those in the crowd to hear. Somehow it sounded horrible.
And it seemed to enrage Parker. He began a furious onslaught, as if he were tired of playing with a freshman so long and meant to end the thing right there.
He wrenched and jerked this way, he tugged and pulled that way, he turned over and then back, he tried all the manœuvres he knew, and took desperate chances, which the freshman was too slow to take advantage of. Twice the sophomore seemed to have the cane, and the freshman still held on. It was a battle of giants, and those that were there will never forget it.